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Understand Personality Diversity to Maximize Productivity



CHICAGO—
“Personality doesn’t matter unless two or more people are trying to get stuff done,” according to Nate Regier, Ph.D., of Next Element Consulting. Since “getting stuff done” through people is what the workplace is all about, however, personality matters greatly.

There are many instruments employers may use to identify individual work styles and character traits, noted Regier during a concurrent session at the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) 2012 Diversity & Inclusion Conference & Exposition held here Oct. 22-24, 2012. To help employers understand personality diversity, Regier uses the Process Communication Model® (PCM), discovered by Dr. Taibi Kahler in 1972.

The model “conceptualizes personality structure like a condominium with six floors,” he explained. The floors are arranged in order of each person’s preference. Using the condominium analogy, he said the ground floor is the most visited floor—the place people enter—and is thus the strongest element of an individual’s personality. This aspect of personality forms in the first few months of life.

The next five floors are set generally by age seven, he said. The least visited aspect of personality—the “attic”—tends to be a “blind spot” for most people, he continued. It is a personality type “so foreign to us that, when that kind of people are around, they take us by surprise,” he said.

The following summarizes the six types of personalities:

  • Thinkers tend to be logical, responsible and organized. “They are not group people,” Regier noted, and consider time their “most precious commodity.”
  • Believers are dedicated, conscientious and observant and want to be respected for their convictions. According to Regier, they believe, “if a job is worth doing, it is worth doing well.”
  • Harmonizers are compassionate, sensitive and warm—and are often found in the HR profession, Regier noted. They prize family and friendship and work best in groups.
  • Funsters are spontaneous, creative and playful. They want the workplace to be lively and upbeat, according to Regier, and tend to react quickly to whatever is happening around them at the time.
  • Promoters are action-oriented. “They sell everything,” Regier noted, and are seen as adaptable, persuasive and charming.
  • Imaginers—the category most closely aligned with introversion—are imaginative, reflective and calm and prize privacy and their own space. “Tell them what to do and leave them alone,” Regier said, but tell them when to come back.

Regier said that the North American population consists of the following:

  • 25 percent thinkers.
  • 10 percent believers.
  • 30 percent harmonizers.
  • 20 percent funsters.
  • 5 percent promoters.
  • 10 percent imaginers.

The average workplace will likely contain a blend of personalities, as well, he noted. When personality conflict occurs, however, instead of recognizing that personality diversity is the issue, people often look to more obvious differences, such as gender or race, and assume that’s the cause.

The PCM provides “a treasure trove of ways to connect with diversity and inclusion,” he noted. For example, from a gender standpoint, men are more likely to be thinkers, believers or promoters, while women are more likely to be harmonizers, funsters or imaginers. When a woman is a thinker, she might be perceived as aloof, while a male harmonizer might be perceived as weak or emotional.

There are a number of situations in the workplace that are “high risk” for personality discrimination, Regier noted, such as the following:

  • High-energy, highly verbal meetings.
  • Task-focused environments.
  • Rigid fairness and consistency policies.
  • Rigid dress code policies.

Regier asked the audience to consider: “What happens when you take someone who is beautifully and wonderfully built and put them somewhere where they don’t fit?” The answer, he said, is that they will get negative attention by acting out in certain ways. For example, thinkers might start to micromanage while funsters might “play dumb” and avoid responsibility.

Employers that learn how to recognize personality diversity will be better able to adapt their environments, policies and recognition programs to get the most out of all employees. “Let’s stop thinking about recognition and start thinking about motivation,” he said.

Rebecca R. Hastings, SPHR, is an online editor/manager for SHRM.​​

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